Many exotic animals seen in clinical practice are prey species. In the wild, individuals that appear sick or injured are easy prey for predators, and they may even be segregated or attacked by group members.
When faced with the stress of a strange examination room, most prey species will attempt to appear alert and strong as an instinctive survival adaptation. A 5-10 minute acclimation period may allow the animal to slightly relax its guard. With careful observation and experience, clinicians are better able to detect signs of disease after the acclimation period.
Careful observation will provide the clinician with clues to the patient’s true health status.
- What if clues are not necessary? If a prey species appears depressed or sickly in an unfamiliar setting like the exam room, chances are it is extremely ill.
- Is the animal so ill that only a cursory examination may be performed?
- Or perhaps the patient is not strong enough to tolerate any exam at the moment. Instead the patient should be placed in a warm incubator in a dark, quiet environment.